Killam Prize: Canadian researchers granted $100k for achievements

Leading researchers in fields as diverse as sleep, power electronics, and COVID-19 mRNA vaccine development are among five Canadians awarded $100,000 each for their groundbreaking work.

The National Research Council of Canada announced Wednesday the annual winners of the Killam Awards in multiple categories of health sciences, natural sciences, social sciences, engineering and humanities.

The privately funded National Killam Program was managed by the Arts Council of Canada for more than half a century until the Research Council took over last year. According to the council, the Killam Trust has provided him with more than $1 billion for higher education in Canada.

Selected by a panel of peers, this year’s winners include Laval, who is known for discovering that cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is as effective as drugs to treat insomnia in the short term. including Charles M. Morin, a professor of psychology at the university.

Praveen Jain, Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Queen’s University, has been recognized as an expert in power electronics. This technology controls the amount of electricity flowing into various devices and helps how it can be used to conserve energy in various systems, including those applied in space, communications and renewable energy. .

Ajay Heble of the University of Guelph was honored for his work in establishing a discipline of critical research in musical and other forms of improvisation as a model for social change through partnerships with community groups.

Two researchers from the University of British Columbia were awarded the Killam Award. Among them is Pieter Cullis, who worked on targeted delivery technologies for his five recently approved cancer drugs, gene therapy drugs and vaccines.

Among them was Comirnaty, a COVID-19 vaccine developed by Pfizer-Biontech and delivered to billions of people around the world during the pandemic.

UBC evolutionary biologist Sarah Otto has pioneered several mathematical models to understand how and why sexual reproduction occurs in nature.

“It’s kind of crazy to reproduce with sex because it’s a really dangerous adventure,” she said. You take your own genome that allows you to reproduce, and you take it all apart by mating it with someone else and recombining your own genome, the genome to make offspring, and that genome is now There is no guarantee that it will work in your environment.”

This contrasts with dandelion weeds, for example, which reproduce asexually, Otto said.

The impact of human behavior on the “evolutionary tree of life” is another large area of ​​research, with some species being driven to extinction and others being displaced by wetland exclusion and other environmental changes. she added.

“Are there ways to help move individuals to help them evolve, adapt and survive, or what else can we do? We need modeling that can.”

Otto also co-led a COVID-19 modeling group in British Columbia to demonstrate the impact and expected progression of the pandemic.

Laval’s Morin says chronic sleep deprivation, along with diabetes and obesity, is increasingly recognized as a risk factor for anxiety and depression, as well as high blood pressure, because it doesn’t have a chance to drop during sleep.

Thirty years ago, when he began his research, the only treatment for insomnia was medication, but many resisted the option and there were no alternatives available, he said.

This has led Morin to develop globally recognized behavioral change through training workshops for healthcare providers and the general public.

He started with a program that included six to ten visits with a psychologist or mental health counselor. Or say therapy is best.

However, most people do not have access to a psychologist. This is because their care is not universally covered.

CBT is considered the treatment of choice for chronic insomnia, but it doesn’t work for some people.

Morin recently received a grant from the US National Institutes of Health to conduct research to determine whether CBT or drug therapy is best suited.

“Maybe everyone should get CBT first,” he said. “And if it doesn’t work for a particular person, we can consider other options. Complementary or alternative therapies, but we still have a lot of work to do.

This report by the Canadian Press was first published on March 15, 2023.

The Canadian Press’ health coverage is supported through a partnership with the Canadian Medical Association. CP is solely responsible for this content.

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